Are there any Black idols in the Asian music scene? In fact, can you be a Kpop idol without being Asian? Learn more here!
There is a dark side to the Kpop and the Asian music scene in general which not many people might be aware of.
Yes, there are scandals about entertainment companies putting undue pressure on Kpop artists and strict contracts. And there are also controversies about chart manipulation and industry plants.
But there is one aspect of the Kpop and Asian music industry that very few people talk about and that is racism.
Asian culture has very strict standards of beauty and tall, thin and “fair” idols are the norm. Even if the idols are of Asian origin, it’s very likely that the ones that have Eurocentric features are picked to form groups.
In this type of culture, it seems almost impossible to have a Black person as a Kpop idol or an Asian music celebrity. However, that’s not the case.
In this article, I’ve listed out some top Black idols in the Asian music scene that are breaking barriers and proving that talent and charisma have nothing to do with skin tone.
Related: New K-pop Groups Debuting In 2022
Black Idols In The Asian Music Scene 2022
Here are some top Black idols in the Kpop and Asian music industry that have been making waves recently.
Likiya is one of the most popular black idols in the Asian music scene. He is a singer, choreographer, actor and performer in the Japanese band THE RAMPAGE.
Born on the 28th of November 1990, he is currently 31 years old and is very well known in Japan. Likiya like many of the Black idols in this list is of mixed race.
His mother is a Japanese woman while his father is an African American boxer.
His music/performing career took off when he participated in the auditions to find the new EXILE member called the EXILE Performer Battle Audition. However, he didn’t get in as he couldn’t make it to the finals.
But his dancing and rapping skills impressed the judges and he got into a different music group called THE RAMPAGE a few months later. Their debut single is called “The Lightning”.
Like Likiya, Mandy Sekiguchi is also half Japanese and half American. In fact, he was born in the United States and moved to Japan later in his life.
His mother is a Japanese woman while his father is of Yoruba Nigerian descent. A fun fact about Mandy is that he was raised monolingual and is fluent in Japanese, despite being born in New Jersey.
Mandy rose to fame when he participated in the auditions for Exile Professional Gym (EXPG). He was selected to be a member of the group Generations, which forms a subunit of the larger “Exile Tribe”.
He’s not just a good singer and rapper, Mandy has also dabbled in acting. He first appeared in the late night show WOW in April 2014.
Lately, he’s been announced to play a part in the live-action adaptation of a manga called Motokare Mania in the prime time slot.
The first two Black idols in the Asian music scene I’ve listed were of Japanese descent. But is it possible to have a Black Kpop idol? Lee Michelle proves that yes, it is possible.
She created quite a stir back in 2011 when she auditioned for the first season of Kpop Star.
Lee Michelle is biracial and was born to a South Korean mother and an African American father on September 9th 1991.
While most biracial Kpop or Asian music stars have had a global upbringing, Lee Michelle was born in Paju, South Korea and admits she’s never been out of the country in her life.
She was at first signed to YG Entertainment and was supposed to make her debut in the Kpop group SuPearls but that fell through.
In March 2013, Lee Michelle signed as a solo artist for the company DIMA Entertainment.
Blackswan or RANIA as they were previously called, had already made history by featuring African American Alex Reid as a member when the first started.
However, the group recently (in 2020) welcomed the Sengalese singer Fatou Samba in their midst.
Born on the 25th of March 1995, Fatou or Kim Fa-to as she’s called in Korea was born in Senegal but lived most of her life in Belgium.
Fatou was previously a model with the group Cineline Entertainment before she decided to be a trainee to go into Kpop music.
Crystal Kay is another Japanese music artist that is biracial. Her mother is of Korean and Japanese descent while her father is an African American man who was stationed in Japan during his stint in the US Navy.
Her parents were an early influence on her as her mother’s a professional singer and her father is a bassist.
She’s had a pretty long career despite being so young as she started singing for TV commercials at the tender age of 4. Crystal even signed her first music contract at the age of 12 when she was found by Epic Records.
There aren’t just black idols in the Kpop and Japanese music industries. Zhong Feifei, a half Congolese model and singer has been making waves in the Chinese music scene as well.
She gained fame after participating in the Chinese music/survival reality show called Produce Camp in 2020.
However, she did not win the show and got eliminated in the 9th episode.
But all worked out for Zhong Feifei, as not long after she released her debut single called B.U.R.N.
Now here’s another biracial Japanese and African-American music celebrity! Nesmith was born in Kumamoto in Japan to a Japanese mother and an African-American father.
He had an early passion for singing which his mother encouraged after he won a local Karaoke competition as a kid.
In 2001, he debuted as a member of the singing duo called STEEL. However the band disbanded after just a year.
Later, Nesmith participated in the EXILE VOCAL BATTLE audition to become a member of the J-pop group Nidaime J Soul Brothers.
He has also played the lead in the Japanese Broadway adaptation of Peter Pan.
Saarah is one among the four members of J-pop group BananaLemon. She has quite the fan following in South Korea as well.
Like most other black idols she’s mixed race with a Japanese mother and African American father.
Elly is actually the older brother of the J-pop artist Likiya that I’ve mentioned above. The two of them have been a part of a group called J Soul Brothers from the EXILE tribe.
Elly’s rapper name is CrazyBoy which he uses when he’s working as a solo artist.
Black idols in the Asian music scene you need to stan immediately!
There are several black idols in the Asian music scene, there’s Elly and Likiya who are a part of the EXILE group in Japanese music and Zhong Feifei who is making waves in the Chinese music industry. There are also several black celebrities in Korea like Lee Michelle who’s a solo artist and Fatou who’s a member of the Kpop group Blackswan.
FAQs about Black Idols In The Asian Music Scene
Are there Black celebrities in Korea?
The rapper Alex Reid from RANIA (Blackswan) is one of the more popular black celebrities in Korea. But she’s actually of African American descent. Then there is Han Hyun Min, an upcoming model who is half Korean and half Nigerian. Sam Okyere, a TV personality, is also famous in South Korea despite not being of Korean descent. And there’s also Insooni, a half-black, half-Korean singer who’s been active since the 1970s at least.
Does SM accept Black trainees?
Technically SM Entertainment says that they accept every race and nationality but the possibility of a Black trainee being accepted can be slim to none. SM Entertainment Company seems more “global” than other companies in Korea due to the way they’ve divided NCT according to their nationality. But SM Entertainment is big on visuals and appearances. So it’s unlikely that they will accept Black trainees.
What are the Kpop companies that accept Black trainees?
There is no official ban or taboo against Black trainees in Korean music and entertainment companies. But it’s a bit of an open secret that many don’t accept trainees from a different nationality. And even if they do, this rarely translates into them being accepted into Kpop groups.
However, there are some South Korean entertainment companies such as YG Entertainment, DIMA Entertainment and DR Music that have signed black trainees in the past. So these are more likely to accept black trainees once again.
Are there any black K-pop idols?
Yes, the first black Kpop artist was Alexandra Reid or Alex Reid as she’s professionally known. She’s a Korean rapper and a member of the Kpop group Rania (now called Blackswan). Apart from Alex Reid there are several new Kpop artists who are of African descent these include Michelle Lee who is signed with DIMA Entertainment as a solo artist
Which K-pop group has a black member?
In October 2015, DR Music announced that the Kpop music group called Rania would feature an African American rap artist called Alexandra Reid. So technically this is the first Kpop group to feature a black member.
There’s no denying that Kpop idols often reflect the strict and narrow standards of beauty imposed by Asian culture.
But the times are steadily changing and we have idols like LIKIYA, Fatou, Elly and so many more who are winning people’s hearts.
I hope their success means that a lot more Black idols turn up in the Asian music industry. And also that our Kpop idols do not have to abide by very stringent standards of beauty.
Diversity can certainly improve the Asian music industry so here’s wishing for more!